Getting your hiking boots on and heading out on the trail is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in wildness. It’s an excellent form of exercise, a chance to reset your batteries, and a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature. The constant padding of footsteps and the gentle lull of the wind rustling trees becomes almost hypnotic – a unique form of meditation and the satisfaction that you’re carrying yourself under your own steam, at your own pace.
But whether you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail or just going for a walk in the woods, there’s always safety factors to consider. It pays to prepare for things that happen on hikes: unexpected changes in weather, animal encounters, falls, or just getting lost. Hiking shouldn’t be something to be afraid of, and with a few tips, you can make your hikes as safe as possible.
Do Your Research
The more you know about the area you are hiking in, then the safer you can be. So, find out things like:
- What type of geography is it?
- Where are the nearest towns, shops or conveniences? So, if you get lost or need assistance, you can plan where to seek out help.
- Are there any dangerous flora or fauna to be aware of?
- Is there a particular time of year that’s best to go? Some hikes just aren’t safe at certain times of the year; the weather might make things tricky, or there may be the threat of bears, flooding, etc.
- What will the weather be like?
Now that you’ve done your research, you can make sure you’re sufficiently prepared for your walk:
- Plan your route; plot it out on a map and make a few copies. Hopefully, this will help prevent you from getting lost!
- Pack your bag; make sure to take some waterproofs, and something warm just in case the weather changes. A small first aid kit is always a good idea as well as water and snacks. Also, don’t forget your map and compass, as well as a whistle just in case you get lost and need to draw attention to yourself.
- Tell someone where you’re going – whether you’re heading out solo or with a group of friends, be sure to tell someone (or a few people) where you are going. Give them those extra copies of the route maps you made and a rough idea of your timings.
- Take a phone – in case you need to call for help or let people know if your route has changed.
Get Out There
You’ve done your research, packed your bag, told people where you’re going so now its time to hit the trail:
- Know your limits – don’t go climbing or scrambling over rock faces if you don’t know what you’re doing!
- Go at your own pace – don’t rush, take it steady, enjoy!
- Pay attention – slips, trips, and falls can cause significant problems when hiking, so watch where you’re going.
Now you know how to be safe – it’s time to get your boots on and get walking.